As 2022 comes to a close, the University has celebrated victories and handled unprecedented challenges over the past twelve months. DTH University Desk Editor, Liv Reilly sat down with Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz to talk about some of the main events in University news that happened this year.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
The Daily Tar Heel: This is the first semester since spring 2020 coming back without masks. As the chancellor, have you seen any changes on campus and staff and faculty, and if you have, what have those changes been?
Kevin Guskiewicz: It's been great. And it's not without challenges still, but I’m really proud of the way that campus has responded. We certainly learned to adapt during those challenging two or three semesters, but I’m really proud of the way that campus has responded. And when I say that, I mean our students, our faculty and our staff. Our staff have been critical to keeping our campus safe, and we're grateful.
DTH: If there's one thing you could tell students about the recent Supreme Court case, what would it be?
KG: It's about really protecting our democracy and the types of decisions that your generation will be out there participating in that democracy. And being able to be part of decision-making, we'll be made better and in a more informed way, having sat in our classrooms and had conversations around whatever the topic might be in the classroom alongside students with different lived experiences. That to me is critically important for protecting our democracy.
DTH: We've welcomed quite a few new deans this past year and quite few new leaders. How are they all doing during this transitional period for a lot of departments?
KG: It's an exciting time with the number of new leaders coming on board. I will say that I could not be happier with the five new deans that we have on boarded over the past six, seven months. We have two more searches that we're in the process of wrapping up and we have some new vice chancellor positions.
DTH: There have been over 65 buildings with lead found in the water. Do you plan on approaching this issue and how to tell students that it's going to be okay in the future? And what does that plan look like?
KG: There's nothing more important than the health and safety of our campus community members and our 30,000 students. We were very disappointed when we received that first report of lead in water — it's probably been six, seven weeks ago. And our team has been working tirelessly to test all of the buildings and they put a really good plan in place to be able to do that. We have old buildings, but we have to be sure that we have safety measures in place.
DTH: There has been a lot of discussion about lack of campus housing for next year. Is there anything that you want to say about housing — either in the Chapel Hill community or on campus — about what's happening next year?
KG: We've been talking a lot about affordable housing in town. I've had conversations with the mayor, and we have a master plan that Mayor Pam Hemminger and I have conducted with a consultant to look at a lot of issues in terms of town and gown relations, and what we can do to be sure that we're providing the necessary resources beyond just housing for our faculty, staff and students.
DTH: Campus Safety has been a big conversation in the last couple months, but specifically the past couple of weeks. Where do we start to look at furthering campus safety? Because, as you said, the main priority of the University is to keep students safe.
KG: I know that there are concerns about lighting around campus and potentially the need to increase the use of cameras around residential halls. We're looking very closely at all of that. We have, over the past several years, improved lighting and have put cameras up in certain parts of campus, but there's always more that we can learn.
DTH: What are you most proud of from this past year?
KG: This campus never stopped, never missed a beat during the pandemic. We've continued to provide an amazing opportunity for our students in the classrooms and in our research laboratories. I often tell people that we’re the University of North Carolina, the University for North Carolina and the University of the People. We've stayed true to that and I think it's been nice to see that all come to the forefront, this semester.
DTH: What are you most looking forward to in this upcoming year?
KG: I talk often about building our community together. That's the first strategic initiative in Carolina Next strategic plan. We have to continue to listen to our community, we have to continue to find ways that the diverse student body that I talked about earlier, has all the opportunities to thrive here at Carolina. And there's always room for improvement. I just want to be sure that we are taking advantage of every opportunity to have the programming in place for students to thrive regardless of what their background is and where they've come from and what types of resources they have.
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